Light pollution, or sky-glow, is caused by street lighting in urban areas escaping upwards into the night sky and creating a hazy orange glow that can obscure our view of the stars.
Whilst it is important to have street lights for our own safety, poorly designed and misdirected street lights have led to a worldwide rise in the amount of light pollution. You only need to drive from a town into the countryside to see how much more of the night sky you can observe.
Below we have two wonderful simulations, created by Need-Less, that cleverly demonstrate how wasted light can affect our view of the heavens.
If we were able to better manage our lighting infrastructure, it would not only improve our view of the heavens, but would significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere each year. However, there are still many remote parts of the UK that allow us to see the night sky in its full glory, such as the following list of UK StarGazing Sites.
Another major hurdle we face when trying to observe the stars is an effect known as seeing which is the blurring and twinkling of celestial objects, such as stars and planets, caused by turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere.